Portrait of Jennie (1948)

Approved   |    |  Drama, Romance, Fantasy

Portrait of Jennie (1948) Poster

A mysterious girl inspires a struggling artist.

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  • Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones in Portrait of Jennie (1948)
  • Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones in Portrait of Jennie (1948)
  • Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones in Portrait of Jennie (1948)
  • Portrait of Jennie (1948)
  • Portrait of Jennie (1948)
  • Jennifer Jones in Portrait of Jennie (1948)

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Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews

3 December 2008 | Spikeopath
| Eerie, magnetic and just incredibly lovely.
Eben Adams is a struggling artist who feels his work has no real substance, but one day as he mopes around Central Park, a beautiful young girl by the name of Jennie Appleton meets his acquaintance. Totally enchanting, Jennie engages Eben in a conversation that doesn't sit quite right with the time, then after singing him a haunting little tune she vanishes as quickly as she had appeared. From this point on, Eben's life will never be the same, both artistically and emotionally.

Portrait Of Jennie can be bracketed in the multi genre department, part mystery, part romance and certainly fantastical, it's a wonderfully put together picture that is ready made to lift the gloom on a dark winters night. It's the sort of picture that I personally believe you are better going into without any real sense of plot preparation, there are plenty of great reviews for this picture readily available, and all are justified, I can but merely concur with the many positives this delightful picture has garnered.

Directed with a very astute awareness of the theme by William Dieterele, the picture benefits from excellent technical aspects across the board. Joseph Cotten gives perhaps one of his greatest performances as Eben Adams, while the classically beautiful Jennifer Jones (Jennie Appleton) lights up the screen as each scene with her in becomes hauntingly emotional. Wonderful support comes from Ethel Barrymore & Cecil Kellaway, whilst Lillian Gish pops up for a crucial, and impacting piece of work. Joseph August's cinematography is simply brilliant, nominated for an academy award, the way he uses ethereal hues to influence the story is easy on the eye and fully forms the atmosphere. Dimitri Tiomkin takes up scoring duties, appealingly influenced by Claude Debussy, Tiomkin lays down a memorable score that has much to savour. And the final pat on the back goes to the special effects team who picked up the academy award for their excellent efforts.

Technically brilliant and with a story to match, Portrait Of Jennie is highly recommended viewing to those who want to be taken far away to some place rather nice, see it with someone you care about and give them a hug as the ending plays out. 8.5/10

Critic Reviews

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Did You Know?


The quotation from Euripides during the opening narration - "Who knoweth if to die be but to live ... and that called life by mortals be but death ?" (also translated elsewhere as "Who knows but life be that which men call death and death what men call life?") - is from fragment 830 of Phrixus, a lost play. Aristophanes also used a similar statement in "The Frogs": "Who knows if death be life, and life be death, And breath be mutton broth, and sleep a sheepskin?" See Euripides in for example the 1905 edition of Bartlett's "Familiar Quotations".


Jennie Appleton: There is no life, my darling, until you love and have been loved. And then there is no death.


Whilst talking to Eke, Eben is standing on the left of the screen. After a close-up shot of Eke, Eben is on the right.

Crazy Credits

The film opens with a book entitled THE PAINTINGS OF EBEN ADAMS with the inside page headed PORTRAIT OF JENNIE

Dated 1934

H · 30: W · 25 INCHES

Alternate Versions

Originally, all television prints were completely in black-and-white, but by the 1980s the shot of the portrait at the very end was again shown in color. More recently, though, the greenish tint used in the storm scene (lasting about ten minutes) was also restored. Numerous sources, most notably "Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide," have stated that the final reel, save for that color shot, was green, but it was the storm sequence alone, regardless of where it falls on the reels. While the 1990 Fox Video VHS release returned to black-and-white for the two scenes between the storm sequence and the painting-shot, the version currently shown on Turner Classic Movies has them in sepia tint. Which accurately reflects the original theatrical prints is undetermined, but both have the end titles in sepia.


Music by
Claude Debussy
Adapted by Dimitri Tiomkin
Heard over opening narration


Plot Summary


Drama | Romance | Fantasy | Mystery

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